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Is Putin Still “Indispensable”?

Source: Google images

Source: Google images

Recent public opinion polls in Russia showed that an approval rating for the Russian President Vladimir Putin fell to its lowest level since December 2011, when thousands rallied against parliamentary election fraud, chanting “Putin should go.” In the meantime, the share of those who hold negative outlook of Putin’s presidency reached 35 percent, compared to 31 percent during March 2012 Presidential election. Nevertheless, with the decreasing popularity numbers, the vast majority of the Russian people continue to see Putin as an “indispensable” leader of the country for a number of reasons.

Back in December, growing public disapproval, street protests against the “United Russia” Party, and then Prime Minister Putin, created a slight uncertainty about Russia’s future leadership. Discussions on elections, political and economic programs, opinions in favor and critical of the current state of affairs spread through Russian media encouraging voters to make their choice. Could it be that presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov’s initiative of a 60 hours working week or a possibility for a cardinal change and reforms like those of the sweeping 90s, that scared an average voter at the election polls, bringing Vladimir Putin’s rating up to the 73 percent in March 2012? While voting for Putin, Russian people actually were voting for what they perceived as stability, order and some sort of predictable future – something that they as a country had grown accustomed to.

During this past summer, despite the Kremlin initiating a number of controversial laws that instigated some negative reactions amid Russian opposition activists and journalists, a large portion of the population overall remained supportive to most of these initiatives. To starts with, an ambiguous law that requires foreign funded nonprofit organizations to claim themselves as “foreign agents,” appealing to a view of Western influence reminiscent of the Cold war hysteria and perception of “foreign” as a “threat.” This comes as no surprise since 67 percent of the polls believed that the law on NGOs was an attempt to protect Russia from foreign infulence, with only 16 percent viewing it as a potential tool against an opposition. In addition, 62 percent of the citizens welcomed the law on internet control, primarily aimed at fighting child pornography and drug use, but also giving federal authorities  extended powers to shut down any website should they find its content «inappropriate», while 58 percent also supported the anti-defamation bill. Presented by its supporters as protecting the officials, the bill enforces criminal liability for defamation and libel. According to some analysts, this voting numbers attests to the fact that the larger citizenry is leaning towards prioritizing order and stability in the country, all the while setting civil freedoms aside.

In the absence of a suitable appropriate alternative at the moment, 41 percent find Vladimir Putin as the only leader capable of resolving their country’s problems, therefore, willing to bestow him ultimate power. However, should there be an alternative before the next election in 6 years, 49 percent of the interviewed said they would welcome it.

In the meantime, low  ratings of Mr. Putin are more liklely to be related to the facts that the majority of citizens feel no improvement in their living standards since March election,  see fewer engaging presidential appearances in the media, as well as the lack of an alternative political program that could appeal to a  peculiar taste of the Russian people.

 

Author

Ania Viver
Ania Viver

Ania Viver is an editorial/research assistant at WorldAffairsJournal.org. She recently graduated with a masters degree from the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall, where she focused on Foreign Policy and the South Caucasus region. Prior to moving to the US from her native Russia, Ania worked for six years as a trilingual assistant to the regional coordinator on international programs.

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